It’s a bad time to be greedy. I’m not saying every greedy company is going to get smacked (Do dreams ever come true?), but there will be some examples made. There must be some schvitzing going on at the highest levels of BP and Goldman Sachs.
Or, possibly, those companies feel they’re impervious to our wrath. Alas, they’re probably right.
On the other hand open greediness is not good for companies that make their money the old fashioned way–selling to consumers.
Hey Apple, Google and Facebook I’m talking to you!
Let’s start with Apple because this is a company so cool until recently its sh*t didn’t stink. Product-after-product came down the pipe on the backs of unicorns, gleaming with glitter. Apple’s products dominate the high end of computing and telephony where the highest profits lie.
You would think they’d be happy in Cupertino. Guess not.
Apple has shown a desire to control every part of your experience once you buy any of their products. They have done it in such a ham fisted that even Apple fanboys are starting to question their motives. These are the people who earlier would have testified on Apple’s behalf in any sh*t don’t stink litigation.
Apple’s brouhaha with Adobe over Flash is but one example of how not to do it in PR. The same goes for its iron fisted grip on what the iPhone can and cannot do (like sync to your computer wirelessly–one of many built-in capabilities Apple has forbidden from being implemented).
Actually, the best example of foot shooting comes from Apple’s ban of an app meant to show Mark Fiore‘s animated cartoons. Right after Apple turned the app down Fiore won a Pulitzer Prize. Oops. Apple relented after the damage was done.
Now Facebook is perilously close to MySpacing! The recent graphic depiction of Facebook’s shifting privacy policies and a few recently unearthed quotes from founder Mark Zuckerberg showing his contempt for his own users will drive people away.
The bad news for Facebook is this PR debacle is happening so quickly that users might revolt without even knowing what they’re revolting against. It makes no difference. Facebook will be the loser.
Of course the reason Facebook’s privacy policies have become so much less user friendly over time is because there’s more money to be made when privacy isn’t respected. That’s more greed in action.
Shouldn’t there be a point when you make more money by innovating not compromising your customers inner secrets?
Finally there’s Google. Just today Google had to backtrack on what information they get as their “Street View” vehicles comb the world. It seems they’re not just taking photos. They’re also scanning to identify WiFi hotspots so they can connect IP addresses with physical locations.
“It’s now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e. non-password-protected) Wi-Fi networks, even though we never used that data in any Google products,” Alan Eustace, senior vice president for engineering and research
CNET headlines their story about this: “Google: Oops, we spied on your Wi-Fi.” Your information is converted into their revenue stream.
Luckily for Google their biggest search competitor is Microsoft, a previous greed poster child.
The problem for all these companies is their products are becoming more like commodities every day. The iPhone isn’t the only smartphone of its kind anymore. Facebook’s functionality can easily be replicated. Others can perfect search.
For these companies their good name is worth more every day, but only as long as it is actually a good name.
Maybe these exceptionally profitable web companies should realize their users are what gets them the cash. It’s the 21st Century. Their customers will turn on a dime.